New York Post
By DAN AQUILANTE
November 21, 2004
Kevin Spacey has become a one-man studio. To bring the story of teen idol Bobby Darin to the big screen, Hollywood’s favorite chameleon not only produced the upcoming biopic “Beyond the Sea,” he directed and starred in it. Remarkably – or maybe, improbably – he also sings every note in every scene. With jack-of-all trades style, Spacey is promoting the flick with a concert performance of Darin’s hits at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater Dec. 14, and in a couple of days will release the “Beyond the Sea” soundtrack that features the Oscar-winning actor as the ultra cool crooner.
One of the main obstacles to your making this movie was Bobby Darin’s manager, Steve Blauner, who in 2001 said, “Spacey is a great actor, but he can’t sing.”
He said that. I understand Steve’s and Bobby’s family’s initial resistance to having me sing. They had no idea I could.
So how did you convince Mr. Blauner and Darren’s family to let you use the music?
In February 2003, I had my initial meeting with Steve. The first thing he said to me was, “I don’t think you should sing it, I don’t think you should direct it and you’re too old to play Bobby.”
Ouch. How did you respond?
I told him, OK, we can work through all that. Let’s have a drink. We spent the next six hours together talking and at the end of that meeting, he realized this wasn’t about my ego and my wanting to sing in a movie for the hell of it.
Then why sing?
I believe that it’s more exciting for an audience to know that the guy who’s opening his mouth is the one singing. That isn’t to say you can’t have a great performance with someone lip-syncing. We have that this year, with Jamie Fox playing Ray Charles.
Was it difficult to learn to sing like Bobby Darin?
I’m a singer and the range of my voice is close to Bobby’s.
How good a singer do you think you are?
I’m no Bobby Darin. Bobby was remarkable. His range was far greater than mine and he could do things with his voice that I could never do. But I think I honor his talent without doing a slavish imitation of him.
What do you hope this movie does?
I didn’t want to make a plodding, dark biopic. I wanted a celebration of Bobby’s life. I wanted to turn the spotlight back onto him.
You believe Darin is a forgotten star in American music?
I’ve screened the movie for lots of young people and I’m finding kids know his music, it’s international, but they don’t know that the guy singing “Mack the Knife” is the same guy doing “Splish Splash” is the same guy singing “If I Were a Carpenter.”
How does bringing Bobby back to life with this picture sit with Darin’s family?
When I showed the film to Dodd Darin (Bobby’s son with Sandra Dee), it was a very emotional night. He said to me that he was grateful for the movie and that “pop would get the due he’s always been denied.” Bobby died when Dodd was 12, so I think this might help him through an unresolved part of his life.
What drew you to Darin? What did you like about him?
I liked how he overcame adversity. He demanded lots from himself and others. His last TV special is a good example. You watch this performance taped eight months before he died and it’s an unbelievably energetic, dazzling, hilarious, engaging performance. And when I talked to Blauner about it, he told me how sick Bobby was. How he had to go off stage four times to lie down and take oxygen. You watch that performance and you wouldn’t know he had a hangnail. He never allowed the knowledge that he was on borrowed time to affect his performance.
Was being on borrowed time throughout his life his great motivator?
He found out when he was 12 that he probably wouldn’t live to 15 and he still went out there and f—— pushed himself to the edge. He did things that were very risky for someone with a serious heart condition. He was driven. He did things that were detrimental to his health and career because he thought they were right.
People say that about you.
Over the last four or five years, I’ve come under criticism for trying new things and attempting roles that the critics think I shouldn’t have done. Their attitude is almost, “How dare you.” Bobby made me finally understand the conflict artists face.
It’s between professional expectations and personal freedom. At the end of the day, Bobby chose personal freedom. It’s the same for me; I have to follow my heart. You have to do the things that test your talent, the stuff that pushes you to the edge, because the most interesting things are always on the edge.